Walking into the darkened room at MOP Gallery, an unaware spectator may take a while to realise what they are looking at. A video screens on a four-and-a-half hour loop. The long shot takes in the ocean, North Bondi cliffs, the bereft hill, an overcast sky and the occasional bird. And the tiny figure of Fiona McGregor, supine on the edge of the cliff, staring in turns at the violent waves below and the equally vertiginous ocean beyond. Vertigo is an endurance piece – McGregor reclined on the cliff’s edge from morning until night, determined to confront her fear of heights. The result for the viewer is fascinating. The real-time shots, each one hour, seem to deliberately avoid the visceral rush of the artist’s experience. Instead, they are contemplative landscapes, populated by minute movements – the artist raises her head to gaze out to sea, a bird passes, the artist lies flat again. The distance becomes a challenge; an exercise in contemplating our own fear of heights, as we reach out to comprehend the artist’s fear, the pain of the cliff against her body, the sound of the wind in her ears. The tension between McGregor’s stillness, the slow passing of the day, the long shot, and her prostrate body, the rush of the wind, the relentless waves below creates a strange space, in which time seems to stretch and the limits of our endurance are tested both physically and psychologically in symbiosis with the artist. Vertigo marks the Australian debut of McGregor’s Water series, in which she explores her deep fascination with the ocean, particularly Bondi Beach, her on-and-off home for twenty years. Currently screening at MOP Gallery in Chippendale, but will also run as a solo show at Artspace in November.
Until Feb 27, MOP Gallery, 2/39 Abercrombie St, 9699 3955, mop.org.au